Conservation through Research, Awareness and Education

UK Registered Charity Number: 1145387

A black morph reef manta spreads its cephalic fins for cleaning on the pristine Astrolabe Reef in Fiji.

 
 
 

Project Goals:

To set up and maintain a long term study of manta rays throughout Fiji so that the population can be accurately assessed in order to propose regulations against fishing and reduce the increasing negative impacts of tourism. Investigate the significance of the high abundance of black morph mantas around Fiji in relation to the rest of the South Pacific. Increase awareness of the need to protect these amazing creatures within the local communities.

Why this is important:

Around the South Pacific Islands very little is known about manta populations. With further research into their abundance and distinctive populations, we can use mantas as an indicator species to assess the effects of large scale environmental factors, such as climate change and El Niño, on the marine environment. As tourism continues to grow around Fiji, sharks and rays are increasingly becoming big business. Due to the relatively low abundance of mantas, the key manta aggregation sites are increasingly targeted by tourist operators in greater numbers. We hope that research into the manta population’s ecology and migratory habits will allow us to make informed and effective management recommendations at these key aggregation areas, helping to promote responsible and sustainable tourism.

Project Overview:

Consisting of 320 islands in the South Pacific, the Fijian archipelagos are home to some of the healthiest reefs in the world. These rich waters bring tourists from around the world to dive and snorkel with the many species of marine life that reside there. Tourism in Fiji is on the rise and well-known manta ray hot spots are starting to become crowded. Regulations need to be initiated while tourism is still growing so that during peak tourist seasons these measures are implemented by the Fijian government and supported by the tourism industry and local communities.

Fishing is an important source of revenue in Fiji and the Fijian government has yet to put a ban on the capture of the increasingly threatened sharks and rays while still allowing many other nations to continue large scale fisheries within its waters. Although not yet specifically targeted in Fijian waters, it would not take much for a manta rays fishery to begin given the current increasing demand for manta and mobula gill plates internationally. Working in conjunction with resorts in the Yasawas and Kadavu, the Manta Trust is attempting to estimate the manta population of Fiji and the movement of these animals within and around the archipelagos in order to gather baseline data on the current state of the countries resident manta population. Research data will be used to recommend management programs and legislation which will safeguard against such a fishery from becoming established. Integral to the success of this project is the involvement of the local communities, using education as a vital tool, working closely with local villages to demonstrate the benefits of sustainable tourism over fisheries.

An inquisitive black morph Fiji reef manta ray flips upside-down to get a better look at the photographer.

The Fijian population of reef manta rays (Manta alfredi) consist of both black and chevron morph mantas, providing an excellent opportunity to study the genetic differences between these two colour morphs.  This has implications both in Fiji, and on a wider basis across the Indo-Pacific, as we discover more about the occurrence of this black morph and what underlying factors may cause such wide variations in the population composition of these differing morphs between different range states of the species’.

Main Objectives:

  1. To identify areas of manta ray aggregation throughout Fiji and to see if these populations are separate from each other.
  2. To discover the migration patterns, ecology and biology of the manta rays around Fiji.
  3. To raise awareness of the conservation needs of mantas in Fiji and the benefits of tourism over unsustainable fishing of these animals.
  4. To assist the Fijian government in establishing effective and sustainable conservation management and legislation.
  5. To assess the distribution and ratio of black morph / chevron morph mantas within the Fijian population and investigate the underlying genetics.

Partners & Sponsors:

Without the generous support and sponsorship we receive we would not be able to achieve our work in Fiji. We are very grateful to Barefoot Lodge and Matava Eco Resort for their support.


© 2017 Manta Trust